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We introduced our Reading Doctor service last year and we welcome your questions again in 2021.
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“There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats”; so says Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, a line which came back to me while watching the America’s Cup racing over the weekend. These books all feature boats of some kind, and some also feature a bit of messing about.
· Five children in dinghies defeat the treacherous Captain Flint in the English Lake District in Arthur Ransome’s classic Swallows and Amazons, the first in a series.
· Herman Melville left an unfinished novella when he died in 1891, about a handsome sailor, Billy Budd, who is unjustly convicted as a mutineer.
· James George’s second novel, Hummingbird, is set on Ninety Mile Beach, where Jordan lives alone at the base of his ancestral hill in a boat that was never launched, until the arrival of strangers breaks his solitude.
· The Odyssey is the sea voyage that just won’t end, as Odysseus takes a decade to return home to his wife and his kingdom after the Trojan war in Homer’s epic poem.
· Based on a true story is the picture book, Herbert the Brave Sea Dog by Robyn Belton, about a much-loved dog who is lost overboard in the sea near Nelson, before a rapturous reunion.
· The philosophical and surreally beautiful Life of Pi, by Yann Martell, tells of a boy and a Bengal tiger who are stranded together on a lifeboat for 227 days after a shipwreck.
· That tiger was named Richard Parker, after a mutineer in Edgar Allen Poe’s only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which tells of the adventures of a stowaway onboard a whaling ship.
· Jaffy heads to the Dutch East Indies on a whaling ship in search of a dragon for Jamrach’s Menagerie, by Carol Birch, but the return voyage meets with disaster.
· Sebastian Junger’s creative non-fiction book The Perfect Storm is a terrifying account of the experience of the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail, lost at sea during the most severe conditions; also included in the book is the account of the successful rescue of the crew of a sailboat during the same storm.
· An Italian nobleman is stranded on a deserted ship in Umberto Eco’s novel The Island of the Day Before, in which his gradual mental decay is set against a context of Baroque-era science, cosmology and metaphysics.
· A port and trading post of the Dutch east India Company in Edo-era Japan is the setting for David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, featuring a rather uptight clerk who works at this crucial valve for the exchange of goods and ideas.